Cherish the Moments

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Life is moving at breakneck pace. It seems zero to sixty is happening at faster and faster speeds. The exhilaration of it all is simultaneously frightening and exciting. Good or bad, these moments of today will all-too-quickly become the memories of yesterday.

My advice? Cherish the moments. Focus on the present and soak in the joy that is yours for the taking. Do all the things that fill your life with love, hope and contentment. Make time to take time.

Something I saw on an in-flight entertainment show caught my eye yesterday as I made a long transatlantic flight. The image of a couple dancing in the empty living room of their recently sold family home sparked a cherished memory.

Years ago, my parents came for a visit to my East Coast home. Time and distance made those visits seldom and precious; Dad found the drive exhausting and, to avoid boarding the dog, they would not fly.

On this particular evening, we had finished eating a lovely dinner – just the four of us – in our seldom used formal dining room. After dessert, my husband and I left Mom and Dad to linger over coffee while we got a jumpstart on doing the dishes.

With some Frank Sinatra gently playing on the CD player, we got down to business rinsing the dinnerware. A quick glance through the butler’s pantry to confirm no strays were left behind, I caught sight of a precious distraction: my parents slow-dancing in the fading evening light.

Mine were not openly affectionate parents. My father hated PDAs and I doubt I ever saw more than a chaste kiss pass between them. Their’s was a quiet, gentle love that matured and deepened like a fine Cabernet. In all my life, it was the only time I ever witnessed such an open, carefree sharing of intimacy between the two people I loved most.

In that quiet, timeless moment, I was awestruck. I don’t think I had even seen such a beautiful moment and I was frozen in place as they quietly whispered and waltzed across the floor.

I cannot recall my parents ever at my house, together, after that visit. Dad has been gone over eight years and there are no more tender moments to share or witness. The flood of emotion recalling it brings is both comforting and overwhelming.

The line it is drawn
The curse it is cast
The slow one now
Will later be fast
As the present now
Will later be past
The order is
Rapidly fadin
And the first one now
Will later be last
For the times they are a-changing.

–Bob Dylan

I’m thankful for the cherished moments I am blessed to remember. They appear in my mind at the most unpredictable times and bring sweet joy and happiness.

Make time to fill the lives of those you cherish most with beautiful moments that will become tomorrow’s cherished memories.

We only get one shot at this beautiful thing called life. Dance the dance…make beautiful music… Just live every moment with passion.

It’s your life: make it outrageously wonderful!

The Importance of Showing Up

presenttowinWoody Allen said “Eighty percent of success is showing up.” For those of us who have been at the game of Life for a while understand the importance of being there. Really being there.

Opportunities that come knocking at your door require you to be there to open it. You’ll never know your proverbial ship has arrived if you are spending all of your time at the airport. Life requires us to show up and be there – engaged – to seize the opportunities that are ours for the taking.

Today’s world is different and for the young men and women who are entering the world, it brings new challenges that as leaders, parents and teachers we must emulate. The immediacy of digital everything makes some of what is needed to thrive in life today a big challenge. The 24/7 availability of information and the constant barrage of communication can be our friend or our foe. Our challenge is to harness it all properly and use it to help us be focused, available and on top of the details necessary to build a successful life.

The idea of showing up can take on many forms.  Here’s a few key facets of what it means to me:

Be there  physically. It is easy today with Face Time, Skype, WebEx and the other digital communication tools to connect with friends, family and colleagues. And while no one can argue the convenience, cost-effectiveness and accessibility these tools offer, the smart folks will also agree that there are times when they simply are not appropriate. Critical moments require the human element; the touch of another human, the clarity that comes with looking someone in the eye, the body language that signals emotions and buying signals that are hard to replicate in the digital world. Know when it makes sense to be there and when literally showing up will enable you to achieve the results required.

Be there wholeheartedly. I am as guilty as the next person for allowing the modern world to barrage me with distracting messages. The constant noise that comes from texts, the television, even music, at times, stands in the way of me giving my attention completely in some conversations. I remember the uninterrupted meals, meetings and family time of a decade ago, where it was unthinkable to take a phone call in the middle of a discussion with another. The ability to listen intently and ensure the other party feels my completely and undivided attention is impossible when I am monitoring my iPhone. Learning when to turn it off, or leave it out of sight, is a skill we all need to develop.

Be there ready to go when the starting bell sounds. There is no excuse today for anyone to be late for meetings or miss appointments. A quick “Ask Suri” can ensure your alarm clock is set, your coffee pot is brewing and you are out the door –with the briefcase you reminded yourself to grab — to your scheduled commitments with a few simple commands. Regardless of how much of a Jetson-like life you seek, the reality of today’s world is that there are few surprises and not being where you said you’d be – when you said you’d be there – is inexcusable. Human kindness and courtesy dictates nothing less. Unexpected delays require, at a minimum, a quick call or text to explain the circumstance and not leave others hanging.

Be informed. I am curious by nature and find that I can get the answer to just about anything, in a matter of minutes, with a few quick Google searches. Beyond the e-commerce and instantaneous news at my fingertips, I use my search engine capabilities often for some of the most bizarre or curious of reasons. Driving over a bridge that has memorialized someone makes me want to know who they were and why the bridge has been named in their honor. An impromptu meeting with a new colleague will go better if I take a few moments to check them out on LinkedIn and see what areas of common interests we share. My blog can be strengthened by a search on a quote or idea that can help me unearth materials and ideas that enable me to better communicate my ideas with you. When I show up — in print, in person or wherever — I always try to take the time to do a little research and be informed. The dividends are measurable!

Showing up is more than occupying a chair or dialing into a conference call.  It is being an active participant, an active listener and someone who comes ready with ideas, knowledge and a willingness to participate.

And when you really show up, success is sure to follow.

 

 

Finding Hope in the Randomness of Life

 

 

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A pretty darn good list I cannot help but share. The message, of course, is that all around us there is beauty, opportunity, hidden diamonds and bright tomorrows awaiting to be discovered. We must only cling to faith, hope and never stop believing in love.

Beyond the Shattered Dream

shattered_prism_by_fourthdayofgrace-d3dekwsI do not believe there is a more helpless feeling than to see the hopes and dreams of someone you love strown across the floor in a seemingly shattered mess. The jagged, pointed edges of broken promises, the wounds that cannot be prevented, the pain and heartbreak…

Indeed, there is nothing more utterly gut-wrenching than seeing someone you love in pain and accepting your own helplessness. No words or gestures can stop the gaping, sucking hurt that tears at their soul; it is a feeling no words can amply describe.

I’ve had my own dreams broken and bore witness to the shards that come with the hurt and loss of those I care deeply about. What I know is this: when you are standing in the middle of the carnage and pain, there seems to be no remedy to heal the hurt. The feelings of anger and helpless literally suck the air out of you. You cannot breathe.

In the beginning, once you get past those initial emotions telling you this just cannot be, the ping-pong effects of anger and bargaining consume you. They tug at your heart; consume every waking thought and drive you nearly insane with every range of emotion. You seek understanding, trying desperately to move heaven and earth to change the situation, all to no avail. With time, the anger gives way to an intense grief that knocks you to your knees. Your world has changed; you have changed. And then, acceptance finally comes. The scars and pain are real and unforgettable. They will forever shade every decision you make, but they are the refining point that turns your ‘dream-turned-nightmare’ into purpose.

“Something wonderful survives everything terrible, and it surfaces most clearly when we hurt.”
–Larry Crabb

 As I look back on my life, I can recall the many broken dreams of yesterday that are the mosaic of my foundation for today. I can remember moments – days on end – where sleep failed me and I begged God, in the midst of my emotional exhaustion,  to quiet my mind and allow rest to come. I’ve loved and lost many times; broken relationships, untimely death, ended friendships, unfulfilled plans that at the time all seemed unfathomable to accept. Thankfully, God’s grace and mercy carried me through to today. Yes, there are times when I would have given all of my tomorrow’s for immediate understanding and am thankful God knew better than to accept my offer.
“Shattered dreams open the door to better dreams, dreams that we do not properly value until the dreams we improperly valued are destroyed.”
–Larry Crabb

When dreams shatter, the brokenness and pain does eventually give way to new beginnings. In his book on the topic, Larry Crabb draws parallels between Shattered Dreams and the story of Naomi in the Bible. He reminds us of the pain she suffered when she lost her husband and two sons; the anguish she expressed to God over him not employing his omnipotent powers to ease her unfathomable hurt. The story of Naomi’s heartbreak is a lesson in how shattered dreams are the prelude to unspeakable joy.

When I recall the deepest, darkest moments of my life and the cries of my heart to God, I am thankful that he did not appease me. I know the joy and love that fills my life today would not be possible if God had given in to my painful cries. Steeled with the confidence of my seasoned heart, I am convinced that the pain and suffering I felt were necessary to allow me to experience the incredibly blessed life I now have. Yes, without the extreme pain and brokenness that caused me to completely surrender my will to his, I know I would be nothing. I would have nothing. I would not know joy.

There are no easy words that come when dreams shatter. No helping hand or offer to help put the pieces back together will suffice. The only path forward – when you are sitting in the middle of the mess – is to feel the pain, find surrender and languish in the joy that will surely follow.

I am on my knees, crying, for this season to pass quickly for those I know are hurting. It is the desire of my heart that his lessons show themselves and be quickly taken to heart. I ask for the pain and suffering to give way to eventual acceptance of the situation and rejoice, knowing that one in not-too-distant morning, we will celebrate the glorious arrival of unspeakable joy.

And, I know God is listening.

The Winning Power of Positive Thinking

arcade-claw-2We blew off a little steam yesterday at Dave & Busters. My daughter wanted to go have some silly fun and we added a few hours of arcade games to our long list of Saturday errands.

I’m not much of an arcade aficionado. Since the beginning, my parents instilled into me the importance of a dollar and I have never quite been able to reconcile the idea of blowing $75 on tokens to win enough tickets to buy a $10 prize. That said, the entertainment value of the “midway” is likely worth the investment and as I watch my daughter have fun, I know it is money well spent.

So, while my husband and daughter battled out an extended gun battle with zombies, I found myself utterly fascinated by the activities taking place at the “claw” machine a few feet away.  A line of young boys were anxiously awaiting their turn to drop the claw into the prize pit and score a big prize. As expected, the machine was loaded with precariously placed stuffed animals, basketballs and the occasional iPad. Time after time, they dropped their tokens into the machine and tried to drop the claw at just the perfect spot to score a winner. No one was winning.

Out of seemingly nowhere, a pint-sized little guy stepped up to take his turn. He was so little, he had to jump up to look over the machine’s decorative edge to peer inside. Clearly, there was something in there he wanted and he took several good looks over the side before positioning himself in front of the controls.

As he dropped his token into the machine and took hold of the joystick, I heard him repeat over and over “Be the Ball…Be the Ball…Be the Ball.” The claw left its perch and with steeled focus, he continued his quiet mantra with fervor. The 45-second timer on the machine counted down as he positioned the claw in the exact spot over his target. “Be the Ball…Be the Ball” continued.  All at once, he dropped the claw and held firm; the words continued. As the claw emerged from below, clenched firmly in its arms was a brightly decorated basketball.  I wanted to cheer! He had his prize!

As he walked away, I heard the older kids who were watching him go silent. The could not believe what they had just witnessed. I wanted to go grab the little winner and give him a high-five! He totally owned his outcome with the power of his positive self-talk and focus.

How many times do you go into situations convincing yourself you will win? Do you fuel your outcomes with the positive thoughts and affirmations that will guide you to victory? Or, do you let your mind convince you that you will lose before you take even the first step?

Don’t let negative thoughts stand in your way. Learn the lessons from the little arcade master that I saw in action:

1. Focus on your goal.  When you know what you want, and are ready to “go for it,” don’t let anything stand in your way. My little clawmaster took several looks into that pile of prizes and knew exactly where he needed to aim his efforts.

2. Ignore the distractions around you. I’m sure that little guy didn’t even notice – or pay attention – to the bigger kids all around him as he worked the joystick to guide the claw toward his prize. The fact that they had all tried repeatedly to win, unsuccessfully, did not deter him. He knew what he needed to do and tuned out the chaos and noise all around as he stepped up to take his turn.

3. Talk positively to yourself.  Each time he muttered the words, “Be the Ball” under his breath, I could feel his energy and resolve. He was his own cheerleader, quietly cheering himself with each step toward the goal.

4. Visualize success. While I don’t know what was going through that little guy’s mind, but I was convinced that the claw would emerge up from the pit with a ball in its clutch. Just watching him focus and listening to his words caused me to will that unseen ball to be his prize. I can only imagine that he saw it even more clearly as he pictured his success.

Positive thinking is powerful thinking. Some will scoff and dismiss the benefits as nonsense. I beg to differ. Talking kindly to me and seeing myself in the situation I want to be in only fuels my resolve toward a successful outcome. Talk kindly to yourself as you grab the joystick on your life. You are the one in control and the words you tell yourself, and the focus you give to the game, will only increase the prizes you clutch in the claw.  

In the words of my little muse, “Be the Ball.”

 

Embracing Change

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I love Fall! As much as I love the warmth and sunshine of Summer, there is something unmistakably perfect about the air that is ushered in with Autumn.

I love the routine of life that returns after months of carefree living. I get inspired by the reflections of gratitude and thankfulness that abound on social media. I find time to bake, watch a little football and get cozy with my love. But truth be told, Fall is not my favorite time of the year.

In all honesty, I love the time between the seasons most. That special time when the tired becomes refreshed and renewed. The air is filled with excitement and anticipation. New plans, fashions, reasons to gather with friends and family consume us all. Yes, I love change.

As you pack away the last vestiges of Summer and turn your eye to Fall, savor every moment. Use this time to reflect on your accomplishments and celebrate special memories. Look ahead with hope as new days give path and purpose to the moments that become tomorrow’s memories.

Embracing change – good or bad – is the frigate for the journey of an outrageously wonderful life!

Let Them See You Glisten

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Remember that old Dry Idea commercial that used the likes or Carol Burnett and Lauren Hutton to deliver their tag line: “Never Let Them See You Sweat?” The advice was to be on your game, be smart, be charming, but – no matter what! – never let the boys see you sweat. I say bull-cocky! Let them see you glisten!

What’s wrong with a little sweat?  Hard work.  Passion.  A contagious fervor of motivation that fuels you through the most challenging of days.  In my world, I say

Let them see you glisten with the passion of your heart!

There is nothing wrong in today’s world with letting your clients, your colleagues and your team see your passion at work!  The sweat of a committed leader is inspiring and pushes everyone to work harder to give their very best! In the purest sense of the word, a little sweat is your body’s way of self-cooling.  In the heat of the moment, a little perspiration can be your best friend – just ask any athlete who pushes him/herself to the brink! That moment of near-breaking turns adversity into opportunity.

The idea of not sweating the pressure you are under is akin to the term “effortless perfection” that was coined in a landmark Duke University study in 2002.  The constant pressure felt by college women to be “smart, accomplished, fit, beautiful and popular,” all without “visible effort.” The price of such a lofty goal, however, has far-reaching (and sometimes devastating) consequences. And here’s the truth: effortless perfection just isn’t real.

Being able to let your team see you sweat the appropriately challenging opportunities and tasks that come your way make you an approachable leader. Someone so confident in his/her ability that you aren’t afraid to share the stress of the big deals. You let others see your passion, your determination and your willingness to push through and win.

To the average team member, that is inspiring and brings people along to root with you, roll up their sleeves along side of you and work together to win. What could be  better than that?